Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report


THURSDAY 20 FEBRUARY 1997

Mr Neil Hamilton; Mr Rupert Grey (Continued)

  1926.  That was to take place on 13th May. What I want to explore now against that background is the sensitive topic of whether or not money was offered, so you will excuse me if I put this to you. What we know is that in the spring and summer of 1987 something changed and the something that is clear is that cash was being handed over by Mr Al-Fayed. He was handing it over in two admitted forms and, he will say, two other forms which are the subject of investigation. He was handing over cash to Mr Greer. I am leaving to one side the allegation of the 5,000 and other cash payments to Mr Greer but these are the uncontroversial areas. Page 189 and 191 over to 193: over a fairly brief period in 1987 in May Mr Al Fayed was handing over £18,000 to Ian Greer. If you look at page 191, if this is representative of the other invitation, it was to help one or two Conservative candidates and that was going to be £6,000 for one or two Conservative candidates.

  (Mr Hamilton)  I think that phrase "one or two" must not be interpreted literally. .

  1927.  We know it should not be interpreted literally now, if page 197 is right, because the money was spread pretty evenly across a large number of election fighting funds. We know that that arrangement excluded you. It excluded all those Conservative MPs who were acting on behalf of Mr Al Fayed. It did not include yourself, Tim Smith, Andrew Bowden, Michael Grylls.

  (Mr Hamilton)  It did include Bowden.

  1928.  Bowden is not in the list if you look at it. He is in the accruals right at the end, accruals paid 15/7, £5,319.90. He is not in the list of recipients on this list. That is another part of the inquiry. But the main players, I hope you will accept that is the right way of describing you all, you are not on the list of recipients. Did you know of this arrangement? Did you know Ian Greer was asking Al Fayed for money?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  No, not then. It was only as a result of the libel case that I have become aware of this.

  1929.  Was it not a topic of conversation at the time? .

  (Mr Hamilton)  Not that I can recall. There is no reason it should have been. .

  1930.  What about Mr Bowden? Again you may or may not know the dates of these conversations but we now know that Mr Bowden was promised £5,000 worth of assistance on about 2nd April 1987. This was at a time when the group was occasionally meeting. Presumably, you would talk to each other on occasions when you were not formally meeting?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  I hardly know Andrew Bowden. It is only as a result of more recent events I have come to know him at all. He has never been a colleague of mine with whom I have had any dealings in the past. We have no common interests apart from being Conservative Members of Parliament, so there would have been no reason for me, even in the closed world of the House of Commons, to fall into conversation with him. .

  1931.  Tim Smith? .

  (Mr Hamilton)  Again, I encountered Tim Smith as an officer of the Trade and Industry Committee but, as he pointed out in the transcript of his own evidence, within the Conservative Party we come from different wings, we have no social connections with one another and I would not have regarded him as a friend, merely an acquaintance.

  1932.  How close socially were you to Ian Greer or Andrew Smith at the time?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Of course I have been a friend of Ian Greer since before I became a Member of Parliament. I made that perfectly clear in my witness statement.

  1933.  Were you very close - this was an important time for the Conservative Party, an election either coming up or announced and here is Mr Greer raising funds for the cause. Were you not aware of that?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  I was not aware of it, as far as I can recall. I knew that Ian had been a Conservative agent many years ago and, through getting advertising in brochures for Conservative balls and so on, I knew that he had been involved in fund-raising for the party, but there has never been the slightest suggestion he would fund-raise for me. Indeed, it was not necessary. For one thing my constituency had a large Conservative majority. We are also an affluent area and we have never had any difficulty in raising funds locally to not only fund our own organisation but also to make the contributions which Conservative Central Office asks constituencies to make. .

  1934.  You had a common interest here as well as being friends; you had the common interest of Mohamed Al Fayed. Are you sure that there was no conversation to the effect that this is a man who has just agreed to pay me £18,000 or thousands of pounds? .

  (Mr Hamilton)  I was wholly unaware of these contributions from Mr Fayed until they were revealed to me as part of the libel case issues.

  1935.  What is a little odd or worthy of explanation is that about this time when money is changing hands, money is being paid by Mr Al Fayed to Mr Greer, you are to see Mr Al Fayed for the first time alone, or the first time in terms of these documents. Could you look at page 190. This is a part of the telephone memo book, book number 27. Message for Mohamed Fayed from Neil Hamilton. That is your then Cheshire number?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes.

  1936.  It says: "Re Tuesday at 11.15. Yes." Tuesday at 11.15, we can see on page 194, is Tuesday 2nd June, 1987, which, as you have noted in your witness statement, is the Tuesday before the General Election on the 11th June. And it is surprising for you to be visiting Al Fayed. You are now in an election, you have other interests, one hopes, your own and colleagues' who are standing for Parliament, but here you are travelling from Cheshire to London to see Al Fayed. Can your recall after all these years what prompted that meeting?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  I do not accept, to begin with, that the meeting did take place. I have not got my own diaries for the period, as I have already said. I think it would be unlikely I would come down from Cheshire to London during the General Election campaign. I cannot wholly exclude that because it might be that I needed to get something from my office that I had forgotten to take up at the beginning of the campaign or I might have needed to come to London for some other political purpose. I remember in one election campaign there was a rally for candidates somewhere. I think that was 1983. So it is not axiomatic that I would not, but I do not recall coming to London at that time. Of course, I was unaware of this telephone message until it was revealed in the middle of September 1996, as is very often the way with Mr Al Fayed and documents in these proceedings. .

  1937.  Mr Hamilton, we will deal with the authenticity.

  (Mr Hamilton)  I have no idea whether it is an authentic document or not.

  1938.  The phone number is right?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  The phone number is right, yes, certainly.

  1939.  On the face of it, it looks as if in late May 1987 you are doing a surprising thing and that is either at the request of Mr Al Fayed, it is unclear, or at your own suggestion, you are not merely coming to London, that might have another explanation, but you are going to have a private meeting with him.

  (Mr Hamilton)  I cannot imagine what possible purpose that would have served from Mr Al Fayed's point of view in the middle of a General Election campaign. .

  1940.  Let me explore that. This is a very anxious time for Mr Al Fayed. This is the 27th May so assume that he has contacted you a day or so before, or assume this is the first contact on 27th or 28th May. The DTI inspectors had been appointed on the 9th April. You were part of a meeting/delegation on the 13th May, 1987, if you will take that date from me, and on that date there had been a minor success in that Mr Aldous had been removed as one of the inspectors.[19] On 15th May Henry Brooke, now Lord Justice Brooke, had been appointed so two things had happened: the DTI Inspectors had been appointed and now it was moving on. There were things to be done and Mr Al Fayed must have been very concerned about it. You say why would he want to see you but we know that at about that time, give or take a few days, if Mr Tim Smith's evidence is right, he was seeing Mr Al Fayed privately and was being offered, or requesting, £5,000.

  (Mr Hamilton)  That was not, as I understand it, in the middle of the General Election campaign. I think the point to make about this is that during a General Election campaign there are no Members of Parliament. Parliament is not in existence. It is not possible for Members of Parliament to do anything for any practical purpose at any rate for somebody like Mr Al Fayed because they are running for re-election. .

  1941.  So why are you seeing him on the 2nd June, assuming that date is right?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  I am not going to assume that date is right. I will give you another interpretation of this message, that the entry in the diary might well have been an arrangement that was entered into before we knew the General Election was going to take place, that the entry was not subsequently erased when the meeting was cancelled, that this message in the telephone message pad could have been a call from me to say I cannot come to London on 2nd June after all because we are in the middle of the General Election campaign and the tick and the yes were subsequently added to the message. I could not get through to Mr Al Fayed (on the evidence of Ms Bond and Miss Bozek as to the purpose served by this message pad). I presume I did not talk to him as a result of this call and that I therefore left a message to say that I needed to talk to Mr Al Fayed about a meeting next week that cannot take place. I have no idea at this distance in time whether I rang them, they rang me or what. .

  1942.  Mr Hamilton, what you would be saying is - note the date, the 28th May, which is some days after the announcement of the General Election - what you would be saying, if that analysis is right, is "No, cancel the meeting for 2nd June", something like that. You would not have a message, unless this is an entirely phoney message: "Re Tuesday 11.15" - it would not be to talk about the meeting. What is reasonably clear is that it has been set up as a meeting on 2nd June.

  (Mr Hamilton)  I do not think there is anything suspicious about setting up a meeting because that could well have been done and probably was done.

  1943.  Mr Grey might want to talk to you. .

  (Mr Hamilton)   (After taking advice)  Mr Grey points out to me, it is quite right of course, that the message is not dated, similarly there is not an initial for anybody who took the message, the handwriting on top of the message sheet appears to be different from the handwriting that is half way down, the tick and the yes are at a different angle from the rest of the message, we do not know what Tuesday is referred to, and it is difficult in those circumstances to draw any conclusion from it at all. I do not know if the inquiry has been given sight of the original documents. I have certainly never seen these message pads. I wonder why they did not appear until the middle of September when, if they have assumed the importance which clearly they now have, it must have been obvious to Mr Al Fayed and his advisers that they ought to have been produced as part of the documentation for the libel action. I have another interpretation which I hope we will come to due course as to why this message pad was produced at the time that it was, and it reflects very much upon the role the employee witnesses were to play in the course of the libel action and which role they play in the course of this inquiry.

  1944.  Mr Hamilton, what I am trying to look at is the document that we have. The position, you have explained, is that you have not got any diaries yourself for 1987. Are there any private diaries you would have kept at home, any other documentation that could throw any light on what appears from the documents to be very obvious was happening in 1987. If you turn to page 194 there is no line through your name for 2nd June, you are not replaced by somebody else. .

  (Mr Hamilton)   (After taking advice)  Would you like to repeat the question? .

  1945.  Could we again take it shortly. If these two documents are genuine, if they say what they do say and you did attend a meeting on the 2nd June, it would be odd, it would be very odd. .

  (Mr Hamilton)  It would certainly be unusual. I have no difficulty in agreeing with that.

  1946.  This would be your first meeting, according to these documents, alone with Mr Al Fayed at a time when there is no real reason for seeing him at all.

  (Mr Hamilton)  I cannot speculate on why I did see him in May or June or whenever in 1987. We have no notes of any meetings that took place. These events occurred many years ago. I had not thought about them for many years before the libel action commenced. I dispute I did attend this meeting which is referred to in Mr Al Fayed's diary. We have no way of knowing one way or the other. It may have been another reason for me to come to London. It would have been possible for me to meet him, of course, but I have no recollection of this meeting, he cannot say what transpired at this meeting, and I would have thought at best from the point of view of this inquiry these documents are neutral even if you accept their authenticity.

  1947.  Let me put the suggestion to you, Mr Hamilton - and we know at this time that this is something we can be reasonably certain about - that there has been a change in the relationship between Mr Al Fayed and his team because he has paid one of his MPs.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes, but let us put that into context as well. We know that as far back as the 4th February Tim Smith was referred to as being offered a consultancy by Mr Al Fayed. That is referred to in question 1027 of Tim Smith's evidence. He followed that up with a discussion in May 1987, question 1038. That is the meeting at which he now admits he was paid. I was never in receipt of any invitation to become parliamentary adviser or consultant to Al Fayed, to the House of Fraser, or anything else. There has never been any suggestion that I would be paid and to connect me in the way that you are seeking to connect Tim Smith, I think, is quite unsupportable. .

  1948.  Let me go on with the suggestion because, as you say, it is no more than attempting to bring some parts of the evidence together. Yes, of course we have the February discussion and the February letter. We have the replacement of Sir Andrew Bowden and the message saying that we can use Tim Smith in other ways, which is what follows that letter you have referred to, but if we assume this, which is I hope clear, that one or other of those two men was taking money, either Sir Andrew Bowden - the £5,000 offer that was referred to, or the £5,000 cash Al Fayed refers to which Sir Andrew disputes, or Tim Smith, we know that he was receiving £5,000 in cash in an envelope at that time, then is it inconceivable that you would have heard about that?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Inconceivable that I heard about Tim Smith being paid? I knew nothing about that until I read the transcript of his evidence. .

  1949.  You would have heard about it from Mr Smith, although that is unlikely, or more likely Mr Greer or Mr Al Fayed?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Mr Greer knew nothing about it, as he assures me and as his evidence states, and I knew nothing about Tim Smith's financial arrangements with Mr Al Fayed until I was informed by Richard Ryder, then Chief Whip, when The Guardian allegations were published, that he was going to resign because he was going to admit to having had a financial relationship with Mr Al Fayed. He received fees, as he described it in his resignation letter. That was the first time I knew that Tim Smith had received any payment at all, which would have been the 19th or 20th October 1994. .


19   Note by witness: It was Mr Heslop QC who resigned. Back


 
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